#4 Spain/Italy, July 6, 2005

Dear Everybody,

I took two subways and a bus to the Barcelona airport, then a flight to Rome. From the Rome airport, I got a train into the Rome railroad terminal and then got another train to Arezzo (finalmente!!), a small city 40 minutes from Partina, the tiny town where my son in law, Roberto, grew up. Roberto picked me up in Arezzo, and we arrived in Partina in time for cena (supper) at Roberto’s sister’s house. Marco and Lorenzo (grandsons) had followed the lead of their slightly older cousin, Matteo, and all three were sporting brand new hairstyles. They were all three ‘buzzed’ but with hair longer over their forehead which was bleached!

It’s wonderful to be in Partina again. I haven’t been here since two years ago when I was awakened at midnight with the news that Cookie and Ulises had been tortured and put in a Mexican jail. Partina hasn’t changed much (thank goodness) except for all the cell phones, video games and an expanded hair salon. At the local grocery store, they still blade the proscuitto by hand, carefully arranging the slices on paper. The grocer commented that he knew that I needed to buy a lot since Lorenzo likes it so much. Claire had been here too, for a couple of weeks, but is now back at work in Minneapolis.

Marco, Lorenzo and their two cousins take a small school bus six mornings a week at 8:00 A.M. to go to swimming lessons. This is the third year that they’ve had these month-long lessons. They have both learned some Italian which pops out in paragraphs when they are talking with other children.

I am enjoying doing some cooking and eating. We picked squash blossoms from the garden, which I made into fried squash blossoms with sausage, a Tuscan traditional recipe. (I’ve got the Beautiful Cookbook of Tuscany and marvelous food markets nearby). The next day I tried Roberto’s sister’s recipe which is just dredging them in flour and frying in olive oil. So we’ve eaten our fill of tasty squash blossoms for the moment.

The evening of July 4th we had the family and some friends for a picnic in the backyard. Roberto grilled hamburgers and good Tuscan sausage and I made a potato salad and chocolate cake. It is hard to cook, especially to bake, with ‘mystery’ ingredients and measures—but the food was good and we had a lovely time. The six cousins were together as well as two other friend children. None of the guests had ever eaten potato salad, which they seemed to enjoy. Roberto’s nephew, fourteen year old Giampaolo, arrived on a motorbike. The little boys spent most of the evening climbing on Giampaolo and on his motorbike. Roberto’s niece, Lucia, is 18 and planning to attend the University at Pisa this fall. She and I had a lovely conversation in English!

The thing that the four little kids (6-9) like to do best is play in the little 12 inch deep river that runs through Partina. Roberto takes them out of town a bit where the water is nice and clean and they splash about, catching tiny fish and waterbugs, and hopping across on the rocks.

One morning I walked UP (this is Tuscany and everything is hilly) to Friggina where the view is outstanding. I could clearly see neighboring Soci (2 km) and Bibbiena (8 km) in between huffs and puffs.

Last evening, Roberto, Marco, Lorenzo and Roberto’s sister’s family had dinner with me at a restaurant on the grounds of nearby 13th century Poppi Castle. The food was as good as ever (much more expensive, though with the advent of the euro!) and the ambience unbeatable. The ravioli with butter and sage and the beef fillet with fresh porcini mushrooms (my favorites here) were superlative.









Today Roberto, the four children, and I went to Pisa. We were able to walk up through the Leaning Tower Of—. It is the first time I’ve been up in it as it has been leaning so much it was considered too dangerous and it was closed for repairs the last times that I have been there.





It was quite a thrill to stand where Galileo stood when he did his experiment. However, it probably cost us a bit more—-90 euros (about $120) for the six of us to walk up. Well, I know they just put a ton of money into its repairs, so one shouldn’t complain. It was a lovely day, and three of the kidlets were snoozing in the car on the way home.

All is well with me—I hope it is with all of you, too.


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